Political Idiocy in the Twitterverse

We MassPoliticalProfs tweet our blog posts on Twitter and look to the site for political goings-on.  It’s often productive, we have some good exchanges with smart and passionate political partisans, we learn things from journalists, and it’s fun. Sometimes though the sheer idiocy displayed on Twitter is mind-boggling; Wednesday was one of those days.

As background read Chris Cassidy’s Wednesday Boston Herald piece Tamerlan Tsarnaev Got Mass Welfare Benefits. Here’s the lead: “Marathon bombings mastermind Tamerlan Tsarnaev was living on taxpayer-funded state welfare benefits even as he was delving deep into the world of radical anti-American Islamism, the Herald has learned.” In its understated manner the Herald ran this picture and headline:








This set off some in the Twitterverse and here are the results.

Jim Branch edit




Dee edit



Chris Coon edit



As you can see each of the tweeters has taken the Herald story to mean that transitional assistance system somehow enhanced the evil of the monstrous Tsarnaev brothers. Massachusetts, and specifically Massachusetts Democrats, provided the sustenance for them and are complicit in the Boston Marathon bombing and the murder of Officer Sean Collier. The Herald itself does not make that argument but it just flows naturally for these tweeters.

There isn’t information that the Tsarnaev family did not legally qualify for benefits at the time they received them and of course there is no evidence, because there could be none, that the Department of Transitional Assistance ignored the crystal ball that plainly showed the menace of the brothers.

Immigrant + Massachusetts DTA recipient = terrorist. Who could miss the logic?

I suppose the larger point is that big government is assaulting our freedoms and the Tsarnaev brothers are one natural result. Point well taken. If not for potable water, clean air, food and drug inspections, the place might well have been uninhabitable for them.

I’m not looking for a doctoral seminar on social welfare or terrorism on Twitter but stupidity uncontaminated by thought is far too common.

By the way I have no problem with the Herald‘s reporting on this (the headline is another matter). The welfare angle is one small and inconsequential part of the profile of the brothers. There was a lot of other important information in the story.

Meanwhile an online war of words on Redmassgroup between followers of Michael Sullivan and Gabriel Gomez has spilled over onto Twitter. I apologize to a morning Twitterer for not keeping identifying information so I could properly credit him or her. But I do appreciate my attention being drawn to this gem:

Too Many Gomezs edit

That’s what is wrong with the country — too many Gomezs? I don’t know if Stow Patriot has any Irish ancestry but at one time Massachusetts patriots thought the problem was too may Sullivans. How things change.

About Maurice T. Cunningham

Maurice T. Cunningham is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He teaches courses in American government including Massachusetts Politics, The American Presidency, Catholics in Political Life, The Political Thought of Abraham Lincoln, American Political Thought, and Public Policy. His book Maximization, Whatever the Cost: Race, Redistricting and the Department of Justice examines the role of the DOJ in requiring states to maximize minority voting districts in the Nineties. He has published articles dealing with the role of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts politics and on party politics in the state. His research interests focus upon the changing political culture of Massachusetts.
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13 Responses to Political Idiocy in the Twitterverse

  1. Eric says:

    I think you’re letting the Herald off to easily. “The news raises questions over whether Tsarnaev financed his radicalization on taxpayer money,” they wrote. Their readers are interpreting it exactly as the editors wanted them to.

  2. Bill says:

    That said, the article was in the same Herald edition as a Howie Carr column which did (attempt) to make the argument that we see in the tweets above. Carr is obviously deliberately inflammatory, but perhaps the two in conjunction played a role.

    More on that here bit.ly/11l8Abm

  3. HesterPrynne says:

    Another angle on the Herald story is its timing — during the week each year when the state House of Representatives debates the budget. There’s a history of tag-teaming between GOP House members and conservative media in an effort to ensure that as much of the House budget debate as possible concerns the subject of welfare fraud and abuse: It’s a tsunami of truthiness.

    Thoughts on this year’s debate: wp.me/p28tPp-1nd
    Thoughts on the 2010 House budget debate: wp.me/p28tPp-4d

  4. Nancy Frank says:

    MA legislature is debating appropriations for welfare this week and Republicans plan to make a show of it. ow.ly/kq2dN

    This year during the welfare appropriation debate The Herald made a domestic terrorist the face of welfare. Two years ago it was illegals. See? buff.ly/11GYHVU

  5. Another angle on this Herald story is its timing — during the week of the year when the House of Representatives debates the annual budget. There’s a history of tag-teaming between GOP Representatives and conservative media to ensure that as much of the House budget debate as possible deals with the subject of welfare fraud and abuse.

    This year’s debate: wp.me/p28tPp-1nd

    The debate in 2010: wp.me/p28tPp-4d

  6. Maurice T. Cunningham says:

    First, thanks to Eric, Bill, Nancy and Hester for commenting.

    I’d not go so far as Eric but you do see the Herald’s blunt hand in the placement of the DTA information and cover. There was a lot of important information in the story (good reporting by Chris Cassidy) but it fell in behind the welfare bit. I have no problem with the Herald reporting the welfare angle but it is pretty inconsequential in the scheme of things.

    I also wouldn’t be too suspicious of the timing of the story; it presented itself. Politicians always use events to gain some advantage and the interesting thing to me is how quickly this has happened after the Marathon, in the budget debate and the senate campaign. I don’t know what a proper period would be to keep politics out of the Marathon bombing discussion but as we all get back to our daily lives (one of the ways we defeat terrorism) I find some comfort in a return to routine political bickering.

    If I have missed an important thrust of the Herald’s coverage I will make a small confession: I haven’t read Carr since 1990. Have I missed anything important?

    • Bill says:

      to the last – you haven’t missed anything important. just thought it possible that the twitterverse took its cue from the carr piece.

  7. Maurice T. Cunningham says:

    Bill, it might have. He is an inspiration to many.

  8. Good work, thanks for this. I was in Western Mass in the middle of this week doing advocacy training for volunteers for food pantries that get supplies from our State Dept of Agriculture to supplement the donations of healthy food they hand out to the growing number of families who don’t have enough money to buy groceries and pay rent and clothes etc etc. The volunteers are, of course, gentle kind people who serve every race and ethnic population including Muslims and were especially watchful of their clients during the last few days, ready to offer support and detour any negativity directed to their Muslim clients. And guess what, the Muslim clients only got a little extra sympathy and support from their fellow recipients. The best comment was “We all do our best to raise our kids and sometimes…………….”

  9. Maurice T. Cunningham says:

    Judy, don’t thank me. You do real work, I just observe and write. Thanks to you for helping so many people in need.

  10. rob eno says:

    So Mo, you can’t decipher satire? The comment you cite is an obvious attempt at satire. Trying to ascribe motives that don’t exist. Read it again carefully.

    • Maurice T. Cunningham says:

      Rob I’ve read the entire thread several times now. Jonathon Swift it isn’t.

      On another matter my student Jason Agress and I are presenting a paper this weekend at New England Political Science Association on RMG and BMG during election season 2012. We’ll post about it at some point and I’d be happy to send you a copy. Send me an email address.

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